Just before her senior year, 17-year-old Lauren developed brain cancer. She credits a “fabulous and supportive team” at Stony Brook Children’s for getting her through five months of intense treatment.
For a 17-year-old ready to start her senior year in high school, it couldn’t have been a worse diagnosis: brain cancer. And for Smithtown resident Lauren R it also marked the start of a long relationship with Stony Brook that is still going on today.
Lauren’s journey started in the summer of 2005, when after the diagnosis she was transferred to the pediatrics unit at Stony Brook. There, she and her family met with the multidisciplinary neuro/cancer team to devise a course of treatment. This ultimately included open brain surgery, chemotherapy and radiation — all necessary because the location of her tumor near the occipital nerve and the pituitary gland made it impossible to completely remove all the cancer without causing permanent eyesight and hearing damage.
Lauren spent a grueling five months in and out of the hospital, made bearable she says by the “awesome team.” “I love the Stony Brook approach. Everyone is so fabulous and supportive. They explained every detail, and were there for my family and me every step of the way. And the doctors were amazing. They all gave me their cell phone numbers, and one doctor even came to my house when I was too sick to travel. They truly care.”
This same comprehensive approach applied to follow-up care as well, which Lauren characterizes as “superb.” For example, Stony Brook’s School Re-Entry program for patients with cancer helped her teachers understand what Lauren went through, what they and her classmates could expect, and how best to support her. As a result, she ended up graduating with her class. Today, five years after the initial diagnosis, Lauren is cancer free. Her eyesight is fine and her hearing, she says, is perfect.
She continues to meet regularly with the doctors from her team. “They really keep up on it and follow me closely,” says Lauren. In the meantime, Lauren has received an associate’s degree in Human Services from Suffolk Community College and is now enrolled at Stony Brook pursuing a bachelor’s then a master’s degree in social work. In addition, she has become a volunteer extraordinare at Stony Brook, in particular with the Sunrise Fund, which supports the School Re-Entry program. Why? Simple. “They helped me, now it is my turn to help them.”